Leigh Centurions are thrown into the Jungle for their first game back in Super League as they make the Friday night trip over the Pennines to play dark horses Castleford in front of the live Sky Cameras.
The Tigers have been all the rage in pre-season and are strongly fancied for a top four finish, something they have not done since 2014. They could be a real threat this year if they can keep key players fit. Denny Solomona’s tries will be greatly missed but it’ll be interesting to see what impact Zak Hardaker will make in the famous shirt, as well as Greg Eden who will surely come back from the NRL a much more complete player.
As for the Centurions, they have an interesting blend of youth and experience, their small squad may catch up with them over the season but that won’t be a problem tonight.
Both sides are at near full strength for their season opener with not much form to go on. I never take any real notice of pre-season form but both sides have had eye-catching pre-season wins. The Super League new boys get a 12-point start from Super League sponsors Betfred in this tough opener and they’ll need them judging by the way they capitulated at Leeds in their final game of the Qualifiers last season.
They had performed admirably before that but there’s better places to start your season than at a fired up Wheldon Road. Yes they had already been promoted on that night at Headingley but the way they were out-muscled by a Rhinos side that had struggled all season was worrying.
Obviously this is a much better side than the last Leigh side to play in Super League but I fear the Tigers’ backs will have too much guile, which leads me to thinking they will win this by more than two scores. It’s early days so bear that in mind but a home win by around 16-20 points is about where I see this ending up.
The first game of the season isn’t the time to be taking odds of 2/9 for a home win but this can be boosted to 4/7 on the Half Time Full Time. There is one other game tonight if you want a double.
Leigh will improve as the season goes on but Super League can be very harsh and you have to worry about the lack of top class experience on the coaching staff. There is plenty amongst the playing ranks with the likes of Paterson and Hansen, though. I hope they prove me wrong as it’s a breath of fresh air to see a new side in the top flight, especially one that is going places like the Centurions.
The many Leythers going over to Cas can get 7/2 for their side to pull off a shock opening win but there may be better value in the 13/8 for them to reach 10 points first. There are also alternative handicap markets, for instance you can get 11/8 for the Centurions getting an eight-point start.
Greg Eden and Minikin at 5 and 6/1 are very short for the first try so it could be worth looking at Hardaker for a dream start at 7/1. As for the Centurions, Adam Higson and Matty Dawson are shortest at 9/1, but much better value could be Ben Crooks at 16/1. Don’t forget Betfred double the odds if your first try-scorer goes on to score a second try and treble if he scores a hat-trick, check their website for details.
Luke Gale for man of the match is probably the best value bet of the day even at 7/1, good odds when you consider the short match win odds. Hardaker is a 6/1 favourite for man of the match with ex-Leigh half-back Rangi Chase at 8/1.
As for the visitors, most of what they do goes through the experienced Martyn Ridyard and he is the shortest priced Centurion at 16/1 with Josh Drinkwater. For me one of the unsung heroes of this year’s Super League could be Dane Weston and he is definitely worth a second look at a massive 40/1, so it’s Weston and Gale for me.
There is one other game tonight as last year’s basement boys Huddersfield travel to Widnes. The Vikings are shorn of players for the season opener and have to make do without Kevin Brown, but I haven’t been impressed by the Giants recruitment in-pre season either, they have raided a Bradford side that couldn’t make the Championship top four last season. Widnes are very strong at home and are decent value at 6/5 for a home win. However, you may prefer them at even money getting a two-point start.
Huddersfield are 8/11 to put last season behind them and start with a win, or they are even money conceding a two-point start on the handicap.
Click here to go to Betfred’s site to check out all their Rugby League odds .
Check back to our website tomorrow for a look at the betting for Warrington’s trip to the South of France to take on the Catalans Dragons. As always please gamble responsibly, particularly so early in the season when shocks can happen!